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REEDSVILLE — Throughout this season, the Marion Center girls’ cross country team tried to tune out outsiders’ questions about the Stingers’ chances of repeating as PIAA champions.

After Saturday’s District 6 Championships, the Stingers don’t have to avoid the subject any longer.

“We try to just take it meet by meet,” senior Cherise Schultz said two weeks ago after the Indiana County Meet. “Obviously, we want to be thinking about the future, but we’re using each meet as a stepping stone to getting us to where we finally want to be. ... Yeah, it’s been hard, especially when everyone is talking about it.”

Following a second-place team finish in the District 6 Class 1A race Saturday, the Stingers will get a chance to defend their state title. The top two Class 1A teams at the district meet earn automatic berths to next weekend’s PIAA Championships in Hershey.

For the second time in four years, the Stingers fell short of the district title by a point. Westmont Hilltop won with 51 points, and Marion Center had 52. The Stingers also fell a point short of winning the district championship in 2016.

Fresh off her first individual Heritage Conference title last week, senior Alyx Cornetto placed second with a time of 19 minutes, 45 seconds to pace the Stingers.

Tailing Cornetto was breakout freshman Reagan Ryen, who was fourth in 19:50. Cherise Schultz (11th, 20:31), Nevada Armstrong (17th, 21:00) and Lilly Ryer (18th, 21:09) rounded out the Stingers’ top five at the Indian Valley Middle School course. Marion Center’s final two runners, Maggie Hood (22nd, 21:38) and Charlotte Gardner (28th, 22:19), also qualified for the PIAA meet.

Purchase Line’s star senior Addaleia Beer finished in 16th place, just ahead of Armstrong and Ryer, to punch her ticket to the PIAA meet for the fourth straight year.

In total, 16 area athletes from District 6 qualified for the state championship, eight boys and eight girls.

On the boys’ side, Marion Center’s Hunter Armstrong led the way with a third-place finish (16:25) in the Class 1A race, one of eight runners from the Heritage Conference who placed among the top 16 finishers and qualified for Hershey.

United’s Gavin Cameron took ninth (17:57) and Josh Hamilton was 10th (18:02), finishing a split second ahead of Purchase Line’s Sam Kauffman (11th, 18:02).

Marion Center’s Levi Waltermire placed 13th (18:07), Anthony Scott was 15th (18:10) and Tyler Sacco took 16th (18:10), and Purchase Line’s Aaron Wright was 14th in 18:08.

The Marion Center girls qualified for the PIAA meet as a team for the fifth time in the past six seasons. Since the 2014 season, the Stingers have finished first or second at the district meet every year with the exception of 2015. They won the district title a year ago while coming in second four times, including two years when they finished one point out of first place.

Meanwhile, the Marion Center boys’ team finished third, and the Stingers’ two-year run of qualifying for the state meet ended, but they’re still sending four runners — in addition to the seven on the girls’ side.